Ra'hab the form, in the A. V., of two names quite different in the Hebrew.
I. (Heb. Raechab', רָחָב, wide; Sept. ῾Ραχάβ [and so in Mt 1:5, "Rachab"], ῾Ραάβ; Josephus, ῾Ραχάβης, Ant. v, 1, 2.) A woman of Jericho at the time of the Eisode, whose name has become famous in that connection (Joshua 2) and in Jewish lineage (B.C. 1618). In the following accounlt of her we chiefly follow the Biblical and other ancient authorities, with additions from modern sources. SEE EXODE.
1. Her History. — At the time of the arrival of the Israelites in Canaan she was a young unmarried woman, dwelling in a house of her own alone, though she had a father and mother, and brothers and sisters, living in Jericho. She was a "harlot," and probably combined the trade of lodging- keeper for wayfaring men. She seems also to have been engaged in the manufacture of linen, and the art of dyeing, for which the Phoenicians were early famous; since we find the flat roof of her house covered with stalks of flax put there to dry, and a stock of scarlet or crimson (שָׁנַי, shani) thread in her house — a circumstance which, coupled with the mention of Babylonish garments at 7:21 as among the spoils of Jericho, indicates the existence of a trade in such articles between Phoenicia and Mesopotamia. Her house was situated on the wall, probably near the town gate, so as to be convenient for persons coming in and going out of the city. Traders coming from Mesopotamia or Egypt to Phcenicia would frequently pass through Jericho, situated as it was near the fords of the Jordan; and of these many would resort to the house of Rahab. Rahab, therefore, had been well informed with regard to the events of the Exodus. She had heard of the. passage through the Red Sea, of the utter destruction of Sihbon and Og, and of the irresistible progress of the Is.aelitish host. The effect upon her mind had been wht one would not have expected in a person of her way of life: it led her to a firm faith in Jehovah as the true God, and to the conviction that he purposed to give the land of Canaan to the Israelites. When, therefore, the two spies sent by Joshua came to her house, they found themselves under the roof of one who, alone, probably, of the whole population, was friendly to their nation. Their coming, however, was quickly known; and the king of Jericho, having received information of it — while at supper, according to Josephussent, that very evening, to require her to deliver them up. It is very likely that, her house being a public one, some one who resorted there may have seen and recognised the spies, and gone off at once to report the matter to the authorities. But not without awakening Rahab's suspicions; for she immediately hid the men among the flax-stalks which were piled on the flat roof of her house, and, on the arrival of the officers sent to search her house, was ready with the story that two men — of what country she knew not — had, it was true, been to her house, but had left it just before the gates were shut for the night. If they pursued them at once, she added, they would be sure to overtake them. Misled by the false information, the men started in pursuit to the fords of the Jordan, the gates having been opened to let them out, and immediately closed again. When all was quiet, and the people were gone to bed, Rahab stole up to the house-top, told the spies what had happened, and assured them of her faith in the God of Israel, and her confident expectation of the capture of the whole land by them — an expectation, she added, which was shared by her countrymen, and had produced a great panic among them. She then told them her plan for their escape: it was to let them down by a cord from the window of her house, which looked over the city wall, and that they should flee into the mountains which bounded the plains of Jericho, and lie hidden there for three days, by which time the pursuers would have returned, and the fords of the Jordan be open to them again. She asked, in return for her kindness to them, that they should swear by Jehovah that. when their countrymen had taken the city, they would spare her life, and the lives of her father and mother, brothers and sisters, and all that belonged to them. The men readily consented; and it was agreed between them that she should hang out her scarlet line at the window from which they had escaped, and bring all her family under her roof. If any of her kindred went out-of-doors into the street, his blood would be upon his own head; and the Israelites, in that case, would be guiltless. The event proved the wisdom of her precautions. The pursuers returned to Jericho after a fruitless search, and the spies got safe back to the Israelitish camp. The news they brought of the terror of the Canaanites doubtless inspired Israel with fresh courage, and within three days of their return the passage of the Jordan was effected. In the utter destruction of Jericho which ensued, Joshua gave the strictest orders for the preservation of Rahab and her family; and, accordingly, before the city was burned, the two spies were sent to her house, and they brought out her, her father, and mother, and brothers, and kindred, and all that she had, and placed them in safety in the Israelitish camp. The narrator adds, "and she dwelleth in Israel unto this day;" not necessarily implying that she was alive at the time he wrote, but that the family of strangers of which she was reckoned the head continued to dwell among the children of Israel. May not the three hundred and forty-five "children of Jericho" mentioned in Ezr 2:34; Ne 7:36, and "the men of Jericho" who assisted Nehemiah in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem (Ne 3:2) have been their posterity? Their continued sojourn among the Israelites as a distinct family would be exactly analogous to the cases of the Kenites, the house of Rechab, the Gibeonites, the house of Caleb, and perhaps others. SEE JERICHO.
As regards Rahab herself, we learn from Mt 1:5 that she became the wife of Salmon, the son of Nahshon, and the ancestress of Boaz, Jesse's grandfather. The suspicion naturally arises that Salmon may have been one of the spies whose life she saved, and that gratitude for so great a benefit led, in his case, to a more tender passion, and obliterated the memory of any past Disgrace attaching to her name. We are expressly told that the spies were "young men" (Jos 6:23) — Sept. νεανίσκους, 2, 1; and the example qf the former spies who were sent from Kadesh- Barnea, who were all "heads of Israel" (Nu 13:3), as well as the importance of the service to be performed, would lead one to expect that they would be persons of high station. But, however this may be, it is certain, on the authority of Matthew, that Rahab became the mother of the line from which sprang David, and, eventually, Christ; and there can be little doubt that it was so stated in the public archives from which the evangelist extracted our Lord's genealogy, in which only four women are named — viz. Thamar, Rachab, Ruth, and Bathsheba — who were all, apparently, foreigners, and named for that reason; for that the Rachab mentioned by Matthew is Rahab the harlot is as certain as that David in the genealogy is the same person as David in the books of Samuel. The attempts that have been made to prove Rachab different from Rahab (chiefly by Outhov, a Dutch professor, in the Biblioth. Bremens. iii, 438: the earliest expression of any doubt is by Theophylact, in the 11th century) in order to get out of the chronological difficulty, are singularly absurd, and all the more so because, even if successful, they would not diminish the difficulty as long as Salmon remains as the son of Nahshon and the ancestor of Boaz. However, as there are still found those who follow Outhov in his opinion, or at least speak doubtfully (Valpy, Greek Test. with English notes, on Matthew i, 5; Burrington, On the Genealogies, i, 192- 194, etc.; Kuinil, on Matt. i, 5; Olshausen, ibid.), it may be as well to call attention, with Dr. Mill (p. 131), to the exact coincidence in the age of Salmon, as the son of Nahshon, who was prince of the children of Judah in the wilderness, and that of Rahab the harlot. and to observe that the only conceivable reason for the mention of Rachab in Matthew's genealogy is that she was a remarkable and well-known person, as Tainar, Ruth, and Bathsheba were. The mention of an utterly unknown Rahab in the line would be absurd. The allusions to "Rahab the harlot" in Heb 11:31; Jas 2:25, by classing her among those illustrious for their faith, make it still more impossible to suppose that Matthew was speaking of any one else. The four generations, Nahshon, Salmon, Boaz, Obed, are, nevertheless, not necessarily all consecutive. SEE DAVID. There does not seem, however, to be any force in Bengel's remark, adopted by Olshausen, that the article (ἐκ τῆς ῾Ραχάβ) proves that Rahab of Jericho is meant, seeing that all the proper names in the genealogy which are in the oblique case have the article, though many of them occur nowhere else, and that it is omitted before Μαρίας in ver. 16. SEE GENEALOGY OF JESUS CHRIST.
The Jewish writers abound in praises of Rahab, on account of the great service she rendered their ancestors. Even those who do not deny that she was a harlot admit that she eventually became the wife of a prince of Israel, and that many great persons of their nation sprang from this union. The general statement is, that she was ten years of age at the time the Hebrews quitted Egypt; that she played the harlot during all the forty years they were in the wilderness: that she became a proselyte when the spies were received by her; and that, after the fall of Jericho, no less a personage than Joshua himself made her his wife. She is also counted as an ancestress of Jeremiah, Maaseiah, Hanameel, Shallum, Baruch, Ezekiel, Neriah, Serial, and Huldah the prophetess. See Talm. Babyl. Megillah, fol. 14. col. 2: Yuchasin, 10:1; Shalshalet Hakabala, 7:2; Abarbanel, Kimchi, etc., on Joshua 6:25; Mitzvoth Toreh, p. 112; Lightfoot, Hor. Heb. ad Matthew i1:4; Meuschen, N.T. Talmud, p. 40. SEE JOSHUA.
2. Rahab's Character. — This has been a subject of deep interest and no little controversy. In the narrative of these transactions, Rahab is called זוֹנָה, zotih, which our own, after the ancient versions, renders "Harlot." The Jewish writers, however, being unwilliig to entertain the idea of their ancestors being involved in a disreputable association at the commencement of their great undertaking, chose to interpret the word "hostess," one who keeps a public-house, as if from זוּן, "to nourish" (Josephus, Ant. v, 1; ii and vii; comp. the Targum, and Kimchi and Jarchi on the text). Christian translators, also, are inclined to adopt this interpretation for the sake of the character of a woman of whom the apostle speaks well, and who would appear, from Mt 1:4, to have become, by a subsequent marriage with Salmon, prince of Judah, an ancestress of Jesus. But we must be content to take facts as they stand, and not strain them to meet difficulties; and it is now universally admitted by every sound Hebrew scholar that זוֹנָה means "harlot," and not "hostess." It signifies "harlot" in every other text where it occurs, the idea of "hostess" not being represented by this or any other word in Hebrew, as the function represented by it did not exist. (See Frisch, De Miuliere Peregrina tp. Heb. [Lips. 1744].) There were no inns; and when certain substitutes for inns eventually came into use, they were never, in any Eastern country, kept by women. On the other hand, strangers from beyond the river might have repaired to the house of a harlot without suspicion or remark: the Bedawin from the desert constantly do so at this day in their visits to Cairo and Bagdad. The house of such a woman was also the only one to which they, as perfect strangers, could have had access, and certainly the only one in which they could calculate on obtaining the information they required without danger from male inmates. Thnis concurrence of analogies in the word, in the thing, and in the probability of circumstances ought to settle the question. If we are concerned for the morality of Rahab, the best proof of her reformation is found in the fact of her subsequent marriage to Salmon: this implies her previous conversion to Judaism, for which, indeed, her discourse with the spies evinces that she vas prepared. Dismissing, therefore, as inconsistent with truth and with the meaning of זוֹנָה and πόρνη, the attempt to clear her character of stain by saying that she was only an innkeeper, and not a harlot πανδοκευτρία, Chrysostom and Chald. Vers.), we may yet notice that it is very possible that to a woman of her country and religion such a calling may have implied a far less deviation from the standard of morality than it does with us ("vitae genus vile magis quam flagitiosum:" Grotius), and, moreover, that with a purer faith she seems to have entered upon a pure life. SEE HARLOT.
As a case of casuistry, her conduct in deceiving the king of Jericho's messengers with a false tale, and, above all, in taking part against her own countrymen, has been much discussed. With regard to the first, strict truth, either in Jew or heathen, was a virtue so utterly unknown before the promulgation of the Gospel that, so far as Rahab is concerned, the discussion is quite superfluous. The question, as regards ourselves, whether in any case a falsehood is allowable — say to save our own life or that of another — is different, but need not be argued here. The question, in reference both to Rahab and to Christians, is well discussed by Augustiue, Contr. Mendacium (Opp. 6:33, 34; comp. Bullinger, 3d Dec. Serm. iv). With regard to ler taking part against her own countrymen, it can only be justified — but is fully justified — by the circumstance that fidelity to her country would, in her case, have been infidelity to God, and that the higher duty to her Maker eclipsed the lower duty to her native land. Her anxious provision for the safety of her father's house shows how alive she was to natural affections, and seems to prove that she was not influenced by a selfish insensibility, but by an enlightened preference faor the service of the true God over the abominable pollutions of Canaanitish idolatry. If her own life of shame was in any way connected with that idolatry, one can readily understand what a further stimulus this would give, now that her heart was purified by faith, to her desire for the overthrow of the nation to which she belonged by birth, and the establishment of that to which she wished to belong by a community of faith and hope. Anyhow, allowing for the difference of circumstances, her feelings and conduct were analogous to those of a Christian Jew in Paul's time, who should have preferred the triumph of the Gospel to the triumph of the old Judaism, or to those of a converted Hindu in our own days, who should side with Christian Englishmen against the attempts of his own countrymen to establish the supremacy either of Brahma or Mohammed.
This view of Rahab's conduct is fully borne out by, the references to her in the N.T. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews tells us that "by faith the hlarlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace" (Heb 11:31); and James fortifies his doctrine of justification by works by asking, "Was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?" (Jas 2:25). In like manner Clement of Rome says, "Rahab the harlot was saved for her faith and hospitality" (ad Corinth. 12).
The fathers generally ("miro consensu:" Jacobson) consider the deliverance of Rahab as typical of salvation, and the scarlet line hung out at her window as typical of the blood of Jesus, in the same way as the ark of Noah and the blood of the paschal lamb were — a view which is borne out by the analogy of the deliverances, and by the language of Heb 11:31 (τοῖς ἀπειθήσασιν, "the disobedient"), compared with 1Pe 3:20 (ἀπειθησασίν ποτε). Clement (ad Corinth. 12) is the first to do so. He says that by the symbol of the scarlet line it was "made manifest that there shall be redemption through the blood of the Lord to all who believe and trust in God," and adds that Rahab in this was a prophetess as well as a believer — a sentiment in which he is followed by Origen (in lib. Jes., Hon. iii). Justin Martyr, in like manner, calls the scarlet line "the symbol of the blood of Christ, by which those of all nations who once were harlots and unrighteous are saved;" andl in a like spirit Irenaeus draws from the story of Rahab the conversion of the Gentiles, and the admission of publicans and harlots into the kingdom of heaven through the symbol of the scarlet line, which he compares with the Passover and the Exodus. Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine (who, like Jerome and Cyril, takes Ps 87:4 to refer to Rahab the harlot), and Theodoret, all follow in the same track; but Origen, as usual, carries the allegory still further. Irenaeus makes the singular mistake of calling the spies three, andl makes them symbolical of the Trinity! The comparison of the scarlet line with the scarlet thread wmhich was bound round the hand of Zarah is a favorite one with them. See Ireneus, Contr. Her. 4:xx; Just. Mart. Contr. Tryph. p. 11; Jerome, Adv. Jovin. lib. i; Epist. 34 ad Nepot.; Breviar. in Psalm 86; Origen, Comm. in Matt. 27; Chrysost. Hon. 3 in Matt., also 3 ins Ep. ad Roml.; Eph. Syr. Rhythm 1 and 7 on Nativ.; Rhythm 7 on the Faith; Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechet. Lect. ii, 9; 10:11. Bullinger (5th Dec. Sermn. vi) views the line as a sign and seal of the covenant between the Israelites and Rahab.
The Jews, as above observed, are embarrassed as to what to say concerning Rahab. They praise her highly for her conduct; but some rabbins give out that she was not a Canaanite, but of some other Gentile race, and was only a sojourner in Jericho. The Gemara of Babylon mentions the above-noted tradition that she became the wife of Joshua — a tradition unknown to Jerome (Adv. Jovin.). Josephus (Ant. v, 1) describes her as an innkeeper, and her house as an inn (tcaraywylov), and never applies to her the epithet wropvq), whlic is the term used by the Sept.
See the Critici Sacri, Thesaur. Nov. i, 487; Simeon, Works, ii, 544; Gordon, Christ as Made Known, etc. ii, 268; Ewald, Gesch. Isr. ii, 246; Niemeyer, Chara'k. iii, 423 sq.; Abicht, De Rachab Meretrice (Lips. 1714); Caunter, Hist. and Char. of Rahab [insists that she could not have been a harlot] (Lond. 1850); Hocrmann, Rahab's Erettung (Berl. 1861). SEE JOSHUA.
II. (Heb. Ra'hab, רִהִב, strength; Sept. ῾Ραάβ, Ps 87:4; τὸ κῆτος, Job 16:12; ὑπερήφανος, Ps 89:10; omits Isa 51:9). A
poetical name signifying "sea monster," which is applied as an appellation to Egypt in Ps 74:13-14; Ps 87:4; Ps 89:10; Isa 51:9 (and sometimes to its king, Eze 29:3; Eze 33:3; comp. Ps 68:31) — which metaphorical designation probably involves an allusion to the crocodiles, hippopotami, and other aquatic creatures of the Nile (q.v.). As the word, if Hebrew, radically denotes "fierceness, insolence, pride," when applied to Egypt, it would indicate the national character of the inhabitants. Gesenius thinks it was probably of Egyptian origin. but accommodated to Hebrew, although no likely equivalent has been found in Coptic, or, we may add, in ancient Egyptian (Thesaur. s.v.). That the Hebrew meaning is alluded to in connection with the proper name does not seem to prove that the latter is Hebrew, but this is rendered very probable by its apposite character and its sole use in poetical books. SEE BEHEMIOTH.
The same word occurs in a passage in Job, where it is usually translated, as in the A. V., instead of being treated as a proper name. Yet many interpreters, comparing this passage with parallel ones, insist that it refers to the Exodus: "He divideth the sea with his power, and by his understanding he smiteth through the proud" [or "Rahab"] (26:12). The prophet Isaiah calls on the arm of the Lord, "[Art] not thou it that hath cut Rahab, [and] wounded the dragon? [Art] not thou. it which hath dried the sea, the waters of the great deep; that hath made the depths of the sea a wayn for the ransomed to pass over?" (51:99, 10; comp. 15). In Psalm 74 the division of the sea is mentioned in connection with breaking the heads of the dragons and the heads of Leviathan (ver. 13, 14). So, too, in Psalm 89 God's power to subdue the sea is spoken of immediately before a mention of his having "broken Rahab in pieces" (ver. 9, 10). Rahab, as a name of Egypt, occurs once only without reference to the Exodus: this is in Psalm 87, where Rahab, Babylon, Philistia, Tyre, and Cush are compared with Zion (ver. 4, 5). In one other passage the name is alluded to with reference to its Hebrew signification, where it is prophesied that the aidl of the Egyptians should not avail those who sought it. and this sentence follows: רִהִב הֵם שָׁבֵת, "Insolence (i. c. 'the insolent'), they sit still" (Isa 30:7), as Gesenius reads. considering it to be undoubtedly a proverbial expression. SEE CROCODILE.